Feb 28, 2010

Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA

For some reason it seems in a lot of beer circles Marshall, Michigan's Dark Horse does not get the attention it deserves. One of the reason's why we've heard around the Smashin' Transistors stomping grounds is because of something as silly as people thinking that their label designs look too cheap and people put them off simply for that.
That's a damn shame. Sure, we won't disagree that whoever the brewery has in charge of their label art needs to learn a few things about a little more color separations and layout design but that kinda stuff takes time and costs silly money. The people at Dark Horse know you can't judge a book by simply looking at it's cover and honestly they'd rather just spend their time making the best beer that they can.
Double Crooked is very dark & rich amber in color. A shade that is almost of maple syrup really. The one & a half inch heads holds on strong and even as it melts away it doesn't totally disappear leaving a 2mm cap on top all through the beer and a good amount of spotty lacing. Amongst the rich caramel and freshly squeezed orange juice aroma's there's a campfire of maple and oak smokiness in the scent as well. What I'm noticing the most though is not much of a note of alcohol which is somewhat surprising because this pushes almost a 14% abv.
First thing noticed on tasting is how creamy this is. A lot of the high test IPA's aren't usually highly carbonated anyway but there's something about this that sets itself in a different realm as far as the usually mouthfeel. It fills and coats the tongue but more like a soft blanket that gob of burr's you get of some other double IPA's. The malts here are full on rich & cocoa-ish and take on a slightly maple tinge (which seems to be a theme running through this brew with yours truly) and hold on tight all the way through each sip but the hops aren't neglected or overshadowed-especially towards the end when the citrus comes shining through. There is a bit of warmness in the finish from the alcohol but all the through is his percentage is well hidden.
For anyone out there passing up on Dark Horse just because of their lack of pretty labels and packaging you are missing out on something very well made. Correct that as soon as you can and enjoy.

Feb 27, 2010

CHARLIE & the MOONHEARTS "Real Hot Breakers" 7inch

To start this review off with a totally "Well, Duh!" statement a lot of moderne' trashy rock-n-roll bands borrow heavily from the sounds of the 1960's then they go and make it sound all trashy. See, I said it was a totally "Well, duh!" opening statement didn't I?
The thing is with Charlie and the Moonhearts though is that it's a exact opposite thing. They sound like a band from '67 who were fed on things the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and CCR taught them and they're not too impressed with the Beatles using orchestral instruments, the Doors pretentious poetry & bullshit intellectualism and hippies they started to see influencing all the other kids in the neighborhood. They chose to have themselves frozen in time only to be thawed when rock-n-roll (and not just ROCK music) made a comeback. The rock-n-roll was in their heart & soul and it pained both to make them think they'd have to adapt by painting flowers on their cheeks and playing 20 minute psychedelic snooze jams.
The problem was though that the every once in awhile there was a hot & hopeful rumor that rock-n-roll was on it's way in some moron would along and mess it up. With so many false alarms and the price of cryogenics getting so costly the Moonhearts family had no choice to defrost the boys in the late 90's. Luckily the lab was right next to a record store that still stocked records (and by 2010 standards-even still in business) and their ears were filled with wild sounds of the day that shunned highfalutin recording techniques (some out of necessity-some for recognition) in lieu for a straight on one take blast of good/bad time celebrations.
Side one's "Real Hot Breakers" is a get up early and hit the waves call to arms that would fit totally on one of those Capitol Records Surf/Drag collections that came out back at those times with his harmony chocked vocals and wet echo but instead of a Gary Usher high-gloss sheen of a sound cruising to Muscle Beach in a metal flaked set of wheels built and expensively billed by George Barris they hit the waves in a rat ride with beer cans substituting as a plush dashboard cover. The flipside's "My Love Is Gone" stuffs the forlorn folk jangler formula then kicks it down a rocky and steep hill bouncing, bumping and banging it's way down til it comes to an abrupt halt.

Feb 26, 2010

the BASSHOLES " ...and without a name (Archive Series Vol. 7) " LP

When (and if) the book is wrote on the BluesPunk masters of the late 20th century & beyond Bassholes main man better have a whole chapter dedicated to him. Since the mid 80's, when he first started making a ruckus with the Gibson Brothers, he has been making a mark and leaving a stain. Though the last few years one of his other projects, the somewhat psych & artier (there's clarinets & keyboards in the songs for the devil's sake) end of cowtown stomp skronk of Wooden Tit, has been what his kept it name out there for the (actual) record buying public when the moon is right it's time for him to fill a jelly jar full of ice with corn liquor and wail them stories of desperation, depression and general pissed-offness.
If my count is correct this is their 12 album (and I didn't bother to count all the singles) and is one their most unhinged (even by Howland's usual bent brain standards) & unruly records ever.
"Little Boy Blues" kickstarts the album with the rattling of some spring reverb, followed by a drumroll which cues a maelstrom of blown out guitar splatter and some harmonica that sounds as if it was soaked in a can of gasoline all night. "Mother Goosed" follows it with something along the same pattern but sans harmonica and it's it place a voodoo beat that's sounds like it was recorded in the middle of a huge cavern. For contrast the tune after it, "(I Like) Smoke & Lightning", has a feeling of being in the bottom of a well as blood drips down from the light above.
Things quickly get back to the brain bashing and ear searing with the Cramps fighting to be heard of the sound of a jet engine turbine on "The Way I Came" while the tension building instrumental "Swannanoa River" is so epic it fades out on side one only to be continued on side two. A very smashed up version of Iggy Pop's "New Values" is next done in a way even Mr Osterberg wouldn't even have dreamed up in his most narco influenced dreams. "(Don't You) Look At Me" is the closest thing to a number most old white guys with thousands of dollars of guitar equipment would consider "the rockin' blues" but the twisted reverb and pure disgust towards such people and things that is conveyed what send them clamoring for shelter under the nearest Clapton gatefold seed they could find (and hopefully no pot seeds or shake weed found in it because then they'd have to explain to their children about the life they led before they joined the church of Ronald Reagan). The cover of Tommy Jay's (who also makes an appearance on the track beating on a tom tom) "Tough Luck, Roy" would keep them under their hiding too. In the end though all the audio violence finds peace with itself with the almost pretty guitar only figure "Funerarium"
It's been quite some time since Bassholes records have found them in close proximity to my turntable. This one has been close to it since the day it arrived in the mail. Their back catalog is now quickly following suit. Thanks to Columbus Discount Records for reminding us all what we've been forgetting and what our grimy souls crave.

Feb 25, 2010

Sunday Sonance 1 Year Anniversary

It's been one year since Franck & I have been doing something to give folks around town something to do on an otherwise dull Sunday night...well, one Sunday night a month at least. Join us at the Raven Cafe in downtown Port Huron on March 7th for cocktails, snacks and tunes. Bring balloons and gifts if you'd like.

Feb 16, 2010

the PHEROMOANS "Open For Business" 7inch EP

Because of this records title one must wonder "Well, what kind of business is the band in"? Like thrift store/junk shop merchants salvaging through things that others feel they no longer have a need for the Pheremoans thrive on discarded items and making them work for their own uses.
Two of the tracks here, "I'm Through With Wedgie Cubist" and "A Sister In The Sad", are parts of the mind Mark E. Smith misplaced years ago being sat in front of a Country & Western band space aliens jettisoned from their flying saucer there while "Big Chief Letting Agent" takes the same kind of thing but then coats it in Gene Vincent's coffin dust. "Radical Courier" shakes it up a bit by melding 60's party song into Wire's 154 putting it the same driving lane Tyvek are always cited for swerving around all over in.
Wobbly knee'd, shaky handed and negative disposition DIY post-whatever from the UK-the country, who if didn't invent such unsymmetrical almost pop like this years ago, holds the patent on this type of sound.

Feb 9, 2010

Cucapá Chupacabras Pale Ale

Jokes started almost immediately between my friend Josh and when I mentioned I had one of these in the fridge.
"Mexico's award winning craft brewery? You mean the same Mexico who's usual beer notoriety is that of every Young Country & Jimmy Buffet fan favorite Corona?" Then rolling our eyes while saying "Oh Boy, this is sure gonna be special."
It's fun to doubt, talk smack and be pleasantly surprised. We were ready to give the beer a fair shake though cuz you never know.
The color is cloudy and dark almost brown amber. Despite a couple of cracks of how you're never suppose to drink the water in Mexico it looked to be pretty hearty as far as a pale ale is concerned. Wasn't much of a head to speak of and what was there didn't stick for very long but we gave it a pass because, well, some beers just are like that. No big deal ya know.
Our joking started to change from jokes to what we were afraid was going to become a reality. There was absolutely no nose from this beer either. I thought it was just me at first but Josh was giving me the same look. "What the hell" we both said at the same time sniffing the brew again and swirling it around in the glass thinking it need to be agitated a little to bring any aromas forth. "Nope! Still nothing" was both our consensus.
Maybe all the apparent ravings about it come from the flavor we both hoped. No such luck. Not much of anything there and what there was was metallic. Completely bland. We kept thinking it was something akin to a first time home brewer attempting to make like a Labatt Blue Pilsener-style lager but realized half way through it was a pretty lame idea so threw some lawn clipping from the back yard in it to give it some flavor. Yep, as the beer breathes a little bit of flavor comes out but it isn't those of hops or malt-it honestly taste like lawn clippings.
I've drank some pretty bad tasting beers through the years and even now have some higher end raved about brews that I haven't been to crazy about but it's rare that I dump them out half way through due to whatever it is that turns me off. Neither Josh or I got even halfway through our glasses of this before tossing them down the drain. As we all know Chupacabra is the legendary Mexican goat sucker. Now I want to know what is spanish for a really sucky beer? Who are the people raving about this anyway? Young Country & Jimmy Buffet fans? What a waste of time and money trying this was.

Feb 6, 2010

the MOBY DICKS "The Ballad Of the Red Dog" 7inch EP

To come right out the gate and call this power poppy punk might be a little unfair. A lot of that stuff is all happy go-lucky look at my skinny tie and poofy hair. These guys don't appear all that fancy of dressers (after all they're Canadian-you know they've at least been in the vicinity of a sleeveless Saga T-shirt and pair of high top Nikes with the biggest tongues shoes have ever seen) and they don't quite have "she's the only girl for me/if she ever leaves my heart will be empty" way of thinking that 100's of dollar bin albums with geometric shapes and neon cover sleeve designs have.
The sleeve here is a guy with ketchup and mustard all over his face woofing down a hot dog that doesn't skimp on onions as a topping. Sure, they may mention Cherry Coke and so on in the songs but the mid-fi (think the Ramones and Supercharger finding common production value ground) and banged up sing along rock-n-roll here is rife with bad attitude. After all, how many tunes can you name from a Yellow Pills or Teenline comp that has a song titled something like "Fuck Off Baby"? Maybe I'm blanking but I can't think of one.

Feb 3, 2010

v/a "I'd Buy That For A Dollar" Vol. 1 & 2 7inch EP

Kalamazoo renaissance man and 3 meat pizza fan UFO Dictator found himself in a bit of a dilemma. He was hearing so many new rock-n-roll bands out there but had so little time (and money cuz after all it is Michigan and that's the story of most people's lives here anymore) to get their sounds committed to vinyl.
"Oh, what to do...what to do?" he asked himself? Then one late night it came to him and this series was born.
Kicking off volume one is garage gothsters Black Orphan. Their "Parasitic Mind" sounds like what a record would if Gary Numan moved to Michigan and collaborated with Timmy Vulgar. The Menthols are up next with a springy & spongy beat, Agent Orange like vocal parts and rockin' guitar solo that is "R Is For Russian".
Flipping the record over the hits just keep on a' comin' with The Legendary Wings "20,000,000 Miles to Earth". They usually do the young & full of desperation power pop very well but here it's a 3 chord banger of tension working some fine line between Hawkwind space travel and the trash can kicking sound of prime records from the Rip Off stable. Though this volume is all about some west coast Michigan bands it finishes with some international flavor with Spain's Los Steaks who's "Pills" is not the Bo Diddley song but a huge drunk at the amusement park organ blast backing up a Cheap Trick meets '78 punk sing-a-long.
Volume Two gets the hell out of Michigan all together (though there is a big foam finger included in back sleeve art sporting a Tigers "D" on it). Albany, New York's Cave Weddings whip up a batch artery clogging of snowbelt pop with"Just Like A Fool". It's Ramones/Devil Dogs greasy cheeseburger rockin' that smears the windshield with fingerprints of cute loud harmonies and a Back From The Grave looseness that thousands of JohnnyJoeyDeeDee try-a-likes would never understand (because their too busy practicing downstrokes and only listening to the Ramones and not any of the bands that influenced them). Next up to bat are the Useless Eaters out of Memphis, Tennessee. They don't sound anything like Elvis or Tora Tora though. "Surrounded" is a herky jerky jump arounder like a mechanical man being rewired by chimps whose actual forte is teaching the Electric Eels how to surf.
On side two Madison, Wisconsin's Gut Reactions sound like the illegitimate kids of the Cramps and some meth slinging bikers on "What Are We Doing" and Chicago's Wanton Looks "Worst Side Of Me" sounds like a white frosting covered bowl of glass. It's seems all fluffy, sweet and unassuming on the surface with it's Go-Gos with a whole more distortion going but underneath it at it'll beat you up.